Montana State University

New system provides access to collections of 14 academic libraries in Montana through one search

September 24, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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The collection holdings of 14 academic libraries in Montana are now available through a single online search, thanks to an unprecedented statewide partnership. The new system is made possible by a collaborative effort of the libraries of the four campuses of Montana State University and four campuses of the University of Montana, as well as private colleges, tribal colleges and a community college.

The system is designed to improve discovery of library resources, empowering students and faculty to fulfill their information needs from sources across the state, according to Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the library at Montana State University and Shali Zhang, dean of libraries at the University of Montana. It also represents a cooperative effort never before seen among libraries across Montana, they added. 

“Working closely with our colleagues at the MSU Library, we are now providing users with easy access to library holdings beyond UM and its affiliated libraries, which will significantly enrich their library experience and enable them to receive needed library materials more efficiently than before,” said Zhang. 

The discovery system is powered by software called Primo from a major library vendor, Ex Libris, and is designed to search across the 14 libraries’ catalogs, databases and e-resource subscriptions, making them all discoverable in one interface.

Benefits include a dramatically expanded discovery of library resources; a service that recommends relevant articles, based on usage data; the ability for users to save and organize items found during a search session; and the ability for users to save queries, set up alerts for new results, and expand their search to discover citation data not held in participating libraries’ collections.

“The collaborative implementation of this new discovery tool is the first step to realizing one accessible library collection for students and faculty at academic institutions across the state,” Arlitsch said. The university system will seek support from the 2015 Legislature to fund a back-end management system that will enable cooperative collection development, one-click access to electronic resources, and reciprocal borrowing privileges for all students, staff and faculty across all campuses.  

The new system will give researchers unprecedented system-wide access to a vast array of resources, according to Brent Roberts, director of the library at MSU Billings.

“This is a major step toward a long-cherished dream of uniting academic library collections across the Big Sky country and bringing a dizzying array of resources as close as a researcher’s phone or tablet,” Roberts said.

Montana Tech’s library director, Scott Juskiewicz, said the collaboration will help serve the educational needs of Montanans.

“Montana Tech is pleased to participate in a joint collaboration that expands the depth and breadth of content available in this powerful discovery tool for all of our students, faculty, staff and researchers,” Juskiewicz said.

Mark Triest, president of Ex Libris North America, remarked: “I’m delighted to see the academic libraries of Montana joining so many other academic institutions that are migrating to Primo. To see a state’s public higher education network adopt Primo validates our strategy of delivering open, content neutral systems, supporting increased collaboration and returning control of the user experience to the library.”

The new system is live at most of the participating institutions and will be operational at the remaining institutions in the coming months. Examples of the new discovery system may be searched at and

Participating institutions in the new system are:

  • Montana State University
  • University of Montana
  • MSU Billings
  • Montana Tech
  • MSU Northern
  • UM Western
  • Great Falls College MSU
  • Helena College UM
  • Rocky Mountain College
  • Little Big Horn College
  • Carroll College
  • Chief Dull Knife College
  • Dawson Community College
  • University of Great Falls 

About Ex Libris
Ex Libris is a leading provider of automation solutions for academic, national and research libraries. Offering the only comprehensive product suite for electronic, digital and print materials, Ex Libris provides efficient, user-friendly products that serve the needs of libraries today and will facilitate their transition into the future. Ex Libris maintains an impressive customer base consisting of thousands of sites in more than 90 countries on six continents.

Contact: Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the library, Montana State University, (406) 994-6978 or; or Shali Zhang, dean of libraries, University of Montana, (406) 243-6800 or